Study: Males more confident about appearance after first having sex, females more self-conscious

Laura Donovan Contributor
Font Size:

Body issues don’t end for young women when they first have sex, according to new research by the Journal of Adolescence, which found that “male students were more satisfied with their appearance after first intercourse, whereas female students became slightly less satisfied with their appearance.”

The Pennsylvania State University study, which was published in the academic journal’s April edition, relied on a survey of students who started college as virgins. The findings concluded that sex is more likely to boost the self esteem of men and hurt that of women.

As Tracy Clark-Flory of Salon put it, girls are more likely to be thinking during intercourse, “‘Do my breasts look OK from this angle’ instead of, ‘Wow, this position feels fantastic.’ The researchers suggest that women may be especially prone to this — in part because, duh, they are much more commonly sexually objectified in the culture at large. So, when it comes to actually getting busy, they are more likely to critically evaluate their bodies in terms of the worshiped feminine ideal.”

Amanda Hess, a sex and gender writer and reporter for, told The Daily Caller that females might feel worse about themselves during this initial sexual experience because they might be striving for a particular appearance to be accepted.

“[S]ocial validation comes from looking a certain way so that men want to have sex with you — but you lose some of that validation if you actually have sex with men,” Hess told TheDC.

Hess added that females might feel bad about themselves after their first instance of intercourse because they feel pressure to meet beauty and purity standards of society.

“[T]he thing is that in a lot of ways, those beauty ideals and purity ideals are one and the same,” Hess told TheDC. “Women are valued as beauties for being, among other things: young, white, fresh-faced, sexy without being sexual, wholesome and altogether ‘virginal.'”

Referring to a 2009 article she’d written, Hess said that older women will sometimes try to meet these expectations by undergoing vaginal reconstructive surgery to acquire younger-looking (and feeling) genitalia.

From what Hess has read on this study, the facts show that females’ self-esteems don’t decrease too much, and they restore confidence overtime. As the research notes, guys lose some of the acquired self-confidence as they age and experience dry, sexless spells. When they suddenly aren’t getting laid anymore, they might feel emasculated.

American author Erica Jong, who has written about the sexual desires of women, did not respond to requests for comment.

Laura Donovan